This summer hasn’t been the best weather-wise, has it? I’m sure I’m not the only parent who has found keeping the kids entertained throughout the school holidays challenging and more expensive than they would have liked.
So with the forecast dry all day today, we wasted no time in grabbing a picnic and heading to one of our favourite outdoor spaces and free places to visit, Bute Park. Cardiff Daddy cycled over the Taff Trail with our two eldest children, Little Miss E, 7¾ and Little Man O, nearly 6, while I took the lazy/easy option and drove with our youngest, Littlest Boy I, 3½, and all our stuff.
We arrived at around 11am, parking at the car park on North Road (£5.40 all day or £3.60 after 12pm) which enables you to walk straight down a path and into the park. Cardiff Daddy left at 2pm to play football, and I stayed there with the kids until almost 4pm… five whole hours of outdoor free-range fun.
The park is huge – 56 hectares (“equivalent to 75 football pitches,” according to the website) – and there’s so much to do and explore, from trees to climb, sculptures to spot, and natural playgrounds. It’s on the Taff Trail a 55-mile walking and cycling route from Cardiff Bay to Brecon following the Rive Taff. Cardiff Castle (read our review here) also sits in the grounds and is free to visit if you live or work in Cardiff. You just need to apply for a Castle Key which gives adults three years of free entry for an admin fee of £6 (no admin charge for children but over 5s will need their own key).
My favourite area in Bute Park is the Secret Garden with its red-brick-walled café (recently reopened and under new management), education centre (which runs lots of nature-inspired events for families), wooden sculptures, and trees that are perfect for children to climb. We stayed here for around three hours, including our picnic lunch.
I’ve already mentioned on Cardiff Mummy Says that this tree is my favourite tree. Yes, I am the kind of person who has a favourite tree.
My children love it too. There’s a tree stump at the end that for as long as I can remember has always inspired them to play at creating a picnic tea party for squirrels. They love collecting leaves, twigs, nuts and anything else they can find. Today, I had to be the Queen Squirrel, ordering meals for my loyal squirrel subjects. Their idea; not mine!
This tree is my second favourite tree. I love the thick curved branch. It reminds me of a hammock and I have so many photos of my kids sitting here.
They also love playing ‘children living in the wild’ in this weeping willow tree (I hope it’s a weeping willow. Correct me if I am wrong!). I have to pretend to find them living alone in this den and agree to look after them. Where do they get this stuff from?!
The eldest two spent ages cycling back and forth alongside the paths running by the banks of the River Taff while Littlest tried to get to grips with his balance bike. He is desperate to be able to ride a bike properly so he can join in with his siblings.
We also headed to the wooden obstacle course near the Summer House Café where they balanced on wobbly beams of wood and hopped from one tree trunk stepping stone to the next.
From there it was on to the Gruffalo head embedded in the ground where, naturally, we had to recite the book from memory. Well, we call it a Gruffalo, others call it a troll.
I could sense the kids were flagging by this point… and I still had to get them, three bikes and all our stuff back to the car and home on my own so we headed back to the Secret Garden Café for an ice lolly, another play in the trees and then back to the car.
We’re so lucky to have spaces like this in our city. A friend surprised me recently by telling me she had never been to Bute Park despite living in Cardiff for several years. So for her and anyone else who has never been… I hope this will tempt you to explore one of Cardiff’s most beautiful spots.
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